Yes! We know you love it, and we love writing about this. Idioms section is back! This time, we have prepared a list of four English idioms with the names of people. Yes! The English language has a wide variety of idioms to refer to facts or events that include proper nouns. Some of them replace other words when you don’t want to mention them, others are just like that. Whatever the reason, we will bring it to you. So, let’s dive into the origin, uses, and explanation of some of them.
When we take a look into idioms that include names in English, we may find out that some of them are repeated. Why is this? Because in English we take popular names to talk about an indefinite person, for example. In other cases, these names refer to a famous or historical character. Their action back in history is taken to nowadays English to refer to that specific event.
As you may have imagined, and even though we are dealing with common English phrases, the names included in the idioms always – yes, always – carry a capital letter. They are still names, even though we are not talking about someone in particular. Moreover, these names can’t be swapped or changed for others. This means that you can’t just say a different name to replace the original one. Some idioms, however, have a variable depending on gender.
So, now that we have settled some ground rules, we can go to our list of English idioms that include names. While some of them may sound familiar, others may not. What’s most important here, is that you learn their meanings and explanations, so that you can use them from now on. As you read, try to think of a person you know or a personal situation in which you could apply them.
Jack or Jill of all trades refers to a person who has good broad knowledge. Although this does not draw a limit to its use, we tend to use this expression when someone is very good at fixing things. What things? Nearly all of them! However, we can also apply it to any other area. Some people have natural – or learned – skills that apply to fixing and solving various issues. This idiom refers to them!
She fixed my washing machine, helped my little brother with his maths homework, and programmed my Smart TV. She’s a Jill of all trades!
This idiom is a compliment. However, there is a longer – and, actually, original – version to it that reads “Jack of all trades, master of none”. As opposed to the short version, this one has a negative meaning. With its origins in 1592 English literature, by Robert Greene, it refers to people who know many things but aren’t capable of focusing on one. In this way, their knowledge is vast yet scarce in particular things and therefore, useless.
Sorry, Jacks of the world. English appears to have a thing with you! Once again, this same name appears in a new idiom – and there are more of them, so get over it! In this case, we have an idiom that means that when a person works too much and doesn’t any time left for other activities, they become boring. Do you know any person like this? Next time they refuse to do sports with you, or just hang out for a while, tell them this!
The origin of this idiom remains unclear. Its first written appearance dates back to a book of proverbs in 1659. Still, its most famous use was that of Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance in The Shining. This scene has become very popular in time. But if you think you’re too young to know it –don’t you even dare to call me old! – you may recall Homer Simpson’s adaptation of the phrase.
So, leaving Jacks alone for a moment, we come to this idiom. First of all, don’t be fooled by the first word, which is the verb “to rob”, and not the name “Rob”. When we say this, we refer to a situation in which a person has a debt to pay and to do so, borrows money from someone or somewhere else. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the person took it without permission, but mainly focuses on the fact that the debt problem is not solved at all!
According to popular belief, this idiom dates back to an event that involved the abbey church of Saint Peter. Yet, rumor has it that it was popular before that, way back to the 14th century. Other versions of this same idiom are “to borrow from Peter to pay Paul”, and “to unclothe Peter to clothe Paul”. Being shorter, the one we chose is the most popular.
This is an idiom that can fit both people and things. The real McCoy refers to a person or article that is genuine. For example, imagine you pass by a store in your neighborhood and see a pair of shorts of your favorite team at an incredibly low price. Due to this, you enter the store and ask the attendant if they are genuine. “Yes, of course, they are. They are the real McCoy!” they may tell you as a response.
The origin of this idiom is ambiguous. While some people claim it refers to a modification of a Scots phrase, others say that a man called Elijah McCoy invented an oil drip cup for train engines. Trying to avoid imitations, people interested in buying a locomotive asked if it had “The real McCoy” in it. Thus, the phrase was then used for any other object when a false copy was possible.
So, here are four examples of English idioms with names, or proper nouns, in them. Could you think of an example for each of them? Do you know any other idioms like these? Now you can put them into practice and be a step closer to mastering the English language! Remember to subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive tips, news, and updates! Thanks for reading! See you next time!